Aiyuk in elite company among rookie first-round receivers


Brandon Aiyuk's rookie campaign put him in some elite company according to Pro Football Focus' data.

The 49ers' 2020 first-round draft pick earned an 80.1 overall grade from PFF for his debut season in the NFL, which is the fourth-best mark of any rookie wideout drafted in the first round since 2014. The three above Aiyuk? Let's just say it's a pretty talented group.

Justin Jefferson was part of the same class as Aiyuk, selected three picks earlier by the Minnesota Vikings. The LSU product nearly doubled Aiyuk's yardage total, although he had 16 games of Kirk Cousins taking snaps.

Aiyuk also missed four games due to injury, while Jefferson managed to play in all 16. 

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Over his first 12 NFL contests, Aiyuk hauled in 60 catches for 748 yards and five touchdowns. The 49ers also took advantage of Aiyuk's incredible speed in the open field, as he got six carries for 77 yards and found pay dirt twice.

Aiyuk also dealt with constant change at the quarterback position, as the combination of Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens and a bit of C.J. Beathard proved to be wildly inconsistent in 2020.

He led the 49ers in receptions and receiving yards, and also was targeted more than any other 49ers pass-catcher. The 49ers' injury woes for Deebo Samuel and George Kittle led to more opportunity, but Aiyuk clearly is a big part of the 49ers' offense going forward.

An ideal world would see the 49ers less affected by injuries next season, which could lead to fewer targets for Aiyuk. But he took advantage of what he had to work with in 2020, and that should bode well for the 49ers' offense with Samuel, Kittle and Aiyuk creating a solid triple-threat of players who all can make plays after the catch.


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